Hi! I’m Erin Gardner. I teach people how to make beautiful and delicious cakes and desserts decorated with candy, cookies, and chocolate! There are worse gigs, I know.
The recipes and tutorials I share on Erin Bakes are all drawn from my years of experience as a restaurant pastry chef, bakery owner, and cake design instructor. If you’re into awesome recipes, cool cake designs, and time-saving baking tips and tricks, check out my book Erin Bakes Cake!
For more about my winding ride through candy land, read on.
Slide on the Rainbow Trail
As a kid I loved to bake, but didn’t really know what it was. I thought cakes came from a box and chocolate chip cookies from the bag of a bag. My favorite meal was chicken nuggets and fries. Life was simple, bland, and high in saturated fat. My tastebuds were turned upside down when at 16 years old my dad decided my sister and I should experience something called “fine dining”. We ordered all the sauces on the side and turned our noses up at most of the menu, but the end of the meal changed everything. We ordered two desserts: creme brûlée and vanilla bean ice cream with a raspberry balsamic reduction (on the side). My Jersey-born chain-restaurant-loving mind was blown. I’ve been chasing flavors ever since.
I spent a small part of my misguided youth rejecting the idea that I was made for the sweet life. After earning a degree in business management, interning in the marketing department of the legendary Tiffany & Co., and selling ads for a business journal, I wised up and made the financially responsible decision to plate desserts at night for a local restaurant. Needless to say, my parents were thrilled.
Through the Molasses Swamp
That night plating job lead to an assistant pastry chef role. I was certain I could rule the world at that point, s0 I moved to Boston and worked my way up the pastry chain. Eventually, I landed the pastry chef position at Locke Ober. If you’re not familiar with Locke Ober, don’t worry about it, I wasn’t either. When I walked into my interview and saw Chef Lydia Shire’s James Beard Award on the wall I thought to myself, “Oh crap, I think that’s good or something.” Luckily, my clueless ass got the job. Locke Ober is sadly now closed, but it was just the coolest. Hidden nooks, silver chaffing dishes, whispers of Kennedy/Monroe rendezvous in private dining rooms, 100-year-old cast iron molds, an old phone booth likely used by every old gangster in Boston, gold-leaf ceilings. It is a treasure lost.
I also hated that job. Glad it happened, but whoa, tough! I started making cakes on the side for family, friends, and other chefs with the thought that maybe cake was a better direction. An email from the now defunct Pastry Scoop about a sugar flower class in NYC with Ron Ben Israel piqued my interest. I wasn’t sure who he was either, but the flowers looked real. Really real. No one around here was making cakes with flowers like that. I woke up at 5am every Saturday for three weeks and drove down and back from NH all in the same day so that I wouldn’t have to take time off to do the class. I fell in love with making flowers and Wild Orchid Baking Co. was born.
Over the Gum Drop Mountains
After a few more years of making cakes on the side from home I took my cake business big time. I subleased an abandoned BBQ joint’s rancid kitchen. We were always a little scared the walk-in might fall off the building, but we survived. Thrived, if you will.
Some of my fav cakes from when I owned Wild Orchid Baking Co.
People liked the cakes! Magazines liked them, too! Ones like, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, and The Knot. MSW and Brides named me one of the best wedding cake makers in the country. Brides included one of my cakes in their Prettiest Wedding Cakes in America story and invited me down to help out on the shoot. It was a terrifying, but fun learning experience. (I guess you could say that about all of this?)
As my work gained attention, people started asking me to teach them to do the fancy cake things that I do. I hopped a plane and filmed classes for Craftsy on how to hand-stamp cakes, make show-stopping fondant cake designs with sugar flowers, and how to sculpt delicious chocolate flowers. I met up with Ron Ben Israel again on his Food Network Show Sweet Genius, where I competed and won after making passable desserts using things like baby food, horseradish, and quinoa. Taunton Press contacted me out of the blue and asked me to write Great Cake Decorating.
Past the Lollipop Woods
All of this baking and making lead to opportunities to write abut baking and making. Besides writing for my own site, I’m also a regular contributor for The Cake Blog and Craftsy, and a few other spots here and there around the web.
Home Sweet Home
While I was doing all that baking, caking, and teaching, I also got married and had two beautiful, fun-loving, spunky kids. When baby #2 was on the way I made the big decision to move on from Wild Orchid Baking Co. and launch this website, Erin Bakes. I’ve drawn on my fine pastry skills, modern cake design aesthetic, and overall kitchen MacGyver-ness to bring you fun, easy, accessible, and most of all delicious recipes and cake decorating projects.
When I’m not playing with cake, you’ll find me enjoying the gorgeous New Hampshire seacoast and lakes region with my wonderfully patient husband and crazy kids.